The minimalism trend in North America is now reaching a growing number of well-informed runners. While a majority of scientists, health professionals and coaches agree with the concept, some believe that the individual who wishes to transfer to barefoot or minimalist footwear must meet certain prerequisites.
Many are convinced that one must learn the good running technique (Chi Running, Pose Technique, Running Evolution, FBG, …) before turning to minimalism. These defenders of the « technique » are convinced that it is essential to minimize the impact forces (learn to run softer) or to integrate technical features such as reducing heel strike before removing or minimizing the shoes. This opinion comes from the idea that minimizing the interference is not sufficient by itself to induce essential biomechanical corrections in order to protect the skeleton.
Another school of thought promoted by health professionals is that one needs certain physical attributes before minimizing the shoe’s interface. Among these are minimal amounts of range of motion (ankle dorsiflexion and hallux extension) and of muscle strength and endurance (plantar flexors –going up on the ball of the foot) as well as good proprioception (ability to maintain balance on one leg).
The Running Clinic’s opinion is that while it may be interesting to meet these prerequisites, we do not think they are essential for transitioning to minimalism (very thin shoes or barefoot). Tissue tolerance is the limiting factor for most people in the process of adaptation. Since range of motion, strength and proprioception are usually not limiting factors, Blaise Dubois simply recommends being progressive during transition and to have full trust in the adaptation process. This means that our body will gradually improve its ranges of motion, strength and proprioception from the moment we start wearing minimalist shoes, if the transition is smooth and progressive. Minimalist shoes will induce better running biomechanics unconsciously. The Running Clinic has clinical experience of several thousands of minimalist shoes prescriptions, and our advices are sometimes only to be progressive and to listen to the body …
For a successful transition to minimalism, here are the three key points:
A. Progressivity : Using the « maximum 1 extra minute per day » rule is one of the best ways to make this transition. At the beginning of each training, just put on the minimalist shoes to run one minute more than in the previous training… then put back on the traditional shoes for the rest of the training.
B. Listening to the body: The five anatomical structures that are weakened by a traditional shoe will be the most "at risk of injury" structures as well. It is therefore essential to listen to the body and to be alert to new symptoms to the calf, the Achilles tendon, the bottom side of the foot (the plantar fascia and the metatarsal heads) and the top of the foot (metatarsal bones). New pain means that you’re progressing too fast.
C. Good choice : With the objective that the shoe does not interfere with the natural biomechanics, neurological sensations of the foot or tissue adaptations, minimalist footwear must meet certain criterias.
Priorities are the following, starting with the most important:
1 – The « anatomical fit » (proper fit to minimize pressure points on your foot and toes)
2 – Minimal interference (minimal ramp angle and sole thickness to reduce the interference between the foot and the ground)
3 – Optimal flexibility (the shoe should be highly flexible in its entirety, mainly to the forefoot and the metatarsal heads)
4 – Avoid motion control technologies (the least possible technological support to increase stability such as a rigid calcaneal cup, anti-pronation reinforcements, outsole expansions, plantar arch support lacing systems, arch supports, etc.).
5 – Lightness We hope these precious tips will be useful through your new endeavor.
Enjoy your transition!